Plants of Three Pools - Winter
This is the first installment of a new feature all about the plant life at Three Pools. We’ll show you six plants within a wider category and give you interesting facts about each! We are just beginning to see the first flowers of the year, marking the sign of things to come. As the snow falls and settles around them, let’s meet these brave flowers.
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
Our snowdrops flowered a couple of weeks ago, marking the midpoint of winter and giving us a taste of spring to come. They’re not a native wildflower to the UK, originating from mainland Europe. Used as ornamental plants by gardeners in the 16th century, they weren’t recorded as growing wild until the 1770s. Snowdrops were used by the catholic church as a symbol of Candlemas, celebrated on the 2nd of February, perfectly timed with the first flowers. As such, they were often planted around churches. This, along with their garden escapes, fuelled their spread into woodlands and meadows.
Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum)
This type of comfrey is known as Russian comfrey. It originated from the natural hybridization of common comfrey, native to England, with the prickly comfrey, native to Russia. It was introduced in 1870 and is now the most common type of comfrey to be found in the UK. A perennial herb of the Borage family it’s likely to be found growing in damp places. Comfrey is very useful to gardeners, its deep taproot means it pulls in nutrients from deep down in the subsoil. As such, it is great to use as mulch and to make liquid fertiliser from. While often perceived as a weed, it’s also known for its edible and medicinal properties. We even had some delicious Comfrey pancakes last summer! It was also commonly known as ‘knitbone’ due to its traditional use in healing sprains, swelling, and bruises. Its medicinal use has recently come under scrutiny due to potential links with liver damage.
Lesser Celandine (Ficaria Verna)
‘There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, 'tis out again!-’
This is from one of three poems that Wordsworth wrote about the lesser celandine. Here, he references the bright yellow flowers that close before rainfall and at dusk. A perennial herb of the buttercup family, it provides an important source of nectar for early insects. Its distinctive heart-shaped leaves can be seen, poking out from among the ivy. With leaves that are rich in vitamin C, it has been used to treat scurvy. It also has a traditional use of treating piles!
Wild cyclamen (Cyclamen Orbiculatum)
This species of cyclamen flowers earlier than others, adorning the winter woodland floor with bright pink petals. A member of the primrose family, they are very hardy and prefer to grow in shaded, moist ground. They grow from tubers and go dormant in the summer, storing all their energy underground ready to re-emerge in winter. Cyclamen have also been known as sow or swinebread due to their apparent popularity in pig foraging cuisine!
Greater Periwinkle (Vinca Major)
Greater periwinkle is a trailing vine native to the Mediterranean but with a very long history in Britain. It grows to form a mat and provides wonderful groundcover to protect topsoil from erosion. These bright purple flowers appear from as early as February and continue all through the summer until autumn. In medieval Britain, it was seen as a symbol of immortality and was planted in the garden by newlyweds to ensure a long, happy marriage.
Mezereon (Daphne Mezereum)
Also known as ‘February Daphne’ due to the early appearance of flowers on its bare branches. It’s a deciduous shrub whose flowers reappear before its leaves. It wasn’t recorded as wild in Britain until 1752. Once known as the ‘paradise plant’, its flowers have a strong fragrance. Mezereon produces red berries that are extremely poisonous to humans, though they can be eaten by fruit-eating birds.